1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

They didn’t have cows but claimed ‘grazing losses.’ Now they’ve been indicted.

Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for the federal Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
Published Nov. 15
Updated Nov. 15

PANAMA CITY — Hotel operators, prison guards and a former county clerk — none of whom owned cattle or farms — have been indicted in an elaborate scheme to defraud a federal government program aimed at helping Florida farmers who faced losses in 2017 because of drought, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Larry Keefe announced Friday.

Keefe, who has vowed to target public corruption in the district that houses the state capital, said that the arrest of the 29 individuals “won’t be the last” of the work of his newly-formed Public Trust Unit. He is expected to announce charges on another probe next week.

Under the scheme, prosecutors said, Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for the federal Livestock Forage Disaster Program. The program is intended to help cattle farmers whose grazing lands were significantly damaged by drought.

Prosecutors allege the accused received an estimated $373,000 in checks between May and December 2017 and then turned over as much as $103,000 in cash kickbacks to Crawson.

The defendants include Jeremiah Joe Rolling, 43, of Westville, an investigator in the Holmes County public defender’s office; Jordan Ryan Hicks, 36, of Ponce De Leon, a former Florida Department of Corrections officer; Kyle Martin Hudson, 39, of Westville, the former Holmes County Clerk of Court who last month was indicted on separate charges of wire fraud, and Dwayne Frazier White, 49, of Bonifay, a former city of Bonifay police officer, who has separately been charged with selling drugs out of his squad car.

Keefe said that he will announce additional indictments as soon as next week on another pending investigation. He said that in public corruption cases, “there’s often a network of people and interest and money that flows across county lines and, as we work on these matters, it’s fascinating to see the potential overlap and intersection that occurs.”

The 29 defendants had an initial appearance in Escambia County court on Thursday and were released on conditions. Prosecutors said they first learned of the illicit activity through an employee in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keefe said it is an ongoing investigation.

“There are multiple sources, multiple leads,’’ Keefe said.

Charges include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft, income tax evasion, and obstruction of Internal Revenue Service laws. The maximum penalty is 20 years.

“It’s important for the public to appreciate and understand that agriculture disaster programs are designed to help the hardworking men and women who work tirelessly to produce safe and high-quality agriculture products for this nation,’’ said Jason Coody, assistant U.S. attorney, who led the investigation.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at and on Twitter@MaryEllenKlas


  1. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  2. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  3. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  4. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  5. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  6. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  7. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes
  8. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
  9. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Fights over abortion, Amendment 4 and new congressional maps are all on a crash course with the high court.
  10. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.